Big children

Listening to an interview to Alain de Botton, I caught this part that really describes something that’s been on my mind lately.

One of the kindest things that we can do with our lover is to see them as children. And not to infantilize them, but when we’re dealing with children as parents, as adults, we’re incredibly generous in the way we interpret their behavior.

And if a child says “I hate you,” you immediately go, OK, that’s not quite true. Probably they’re tired, they’re hungry, something’s gone wrong, their tooth hurts, something. We’re looking around for a benevolent interpretation that can just shave off some of the more depressing, dispiriting aspects of their behavior. And we do this naturally with children, and yet we do it so seldom with adults. When an adult meets an adult, and they say, “I’ve not had a good day. Leave me alone,” rather than saying, “OK. I’m just going to go behind the facade of this slightly depressing comment…”

[…] We don’t do that. We take it all completely personally. And so I think the work of love is to try […] to go behind the front of this rather depressing challenging behavior and try and ask where it might’ve come from. Love is doing that work to ask oneself, “Where’s this rather aggressive, pained, noncommunicative, unpleasant behavior come from?” If we can do that, we’re on the road to knowing a little bit about what love really is, I think.

Except not just with your lover. It’s an interesting feeling when you start seeing everyone as bigger children, and their little and big reactions.

It makes it so much easier to have empathy for anyone when you see past their adult facade, and understand we're all just trying to figure out this thing called life, and trying to play the "being an adult" game.

Fungi and the Wood Wide Web

When I read Hope in the Dark1, there was this curious fact that stuck with me.

After a rain mushrooms appear on the surface of the earth as if from nowhere. Many come from a sometimes vast underground fungus that remains invisible and largely unknown. What we call mushrooms, mycologists call the fruiting body of the larger, less visible fungus. Uprisings and revolutions are often considered to be spontaneous, but it is the less visible long-term organising and groundwork – or underground work – that often laid the foundation. Changes in ideas and values also result from work done by writers, scholars, public intellectuals, social activists and participants in social media.

I thought the comparison was beautiful, but more than that I was amazed at this idea of mushrooms being just the visible tip of a much larger hidden organism underground.

Fast forward a year, and I just read The Hidden Life of Trees, which explains how trees stay connected to each other through a fungi network that interconnects their roots to exchange information and goods:

Over centuries, a single fungus can cover many square miles and network an entire forest. The fungal connections transmit signals from one tree to the next, helping the trees exchange news about insects, drought, and other dangers. Science has adopted a term first coined by the journal Nature for Dr. Simard’s discovery of the “wood wide web” pervading our forests

I thought the Wood Wide Web was interesting (and funny), but also there it was: the giant fungi again. And apparently, the largest known organism is a fungus “that occupies some 2,384 acres (965 hectares) of soil in Oregon’s Blue Mountains (…) and is estimated to be 2,400 years old but could be as ancient as 8,650 years, which would earn it a place among the oldest living organisms as well.”

It’s been a fascinating read, full of surprising facts about trees, and I definitely recommend reading it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Featured image by Aaron Escobar

  1. If you can, buy directly from Haymarket. The paperback includes a eBook copy for free and their eBooks have no DRM. Just like it should be. 

On Human Rights

One of the first things she pointed out is that what was exposed by the refugee crisis of the last century was how so-called human rights were actually political and national rights. So you were only — you only had as many rights as were guarded by the country in which you happened to be born.

Once that country decided to decitizenize you, once it decided that you were no longer a citizen, once it decided that it had no more responsibilities towards you, you were rightless. She said the world — she said very famously, “The world found nothing sacred in the abstract nakedness of being human.”

Lyndsey Stonebridge on Hannah Arendt in this episode of On Being: Thinking and Friendship in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt for Now.